Acupuncture has long been used to treat many gynaecological problems, such as menstrual pain or infertility. A well-functioning reproductive system, according to Traditional Chinese Medicine, should pass without too much pain or a particularly heavy flow, digestive problems or other symptoms. Although problems with the immune system or a person’s genetics may contribute to some types of menstrual pain, it is thought that other menstrual experiences may be caused or exacerbated by underlying emotional stress or anxiety, amongst other factors.
Women of all ages can benefit from acupuncture: for pregnant women, acupuncture can relieve many pregnancy-related problems; for younger and older women experiencing cramps, heavy bleeding and PMS, acupuncture can be great for relieving pain, regulating and re-balancing hormones. For Women in menopause, hot flushes and sleep disturbances can be greatly reduced to make this transition more comfortable. After childbirth, acupuncture can be helpful in replenishing energy.
Chinese medicine evolved from detailed observation of external signs and symptoms, which has developed into a well tested theoretical framework that describes how various symptoms fit together to create imbalances within the body. This is none more apparent than in reproductive health. Chinese Medicine recognises not only a strong link between the healthy functioning of our reproductive system and and our emotional state of mind but also our diet, lifestyle, constitution. Interestingly, in old texts the heart was associated with our emotional health and was known as the ‘ emperor' or 'master controller' of other organs and , in the same way that hypothalamus and pituitary glands in the brain are masters of other glands, controlling our hormones and the whole menstrual cycle. In this way Chinese Medicine recognises the detrimental effects of stress on uterine blood flow, which may be seen to manifest as painful periods, heavy or irregular bleeding.
From a biochemical perspective, acupuncture is believed to stimulate the nervous system and cause the release of neurochemical messenger molecules. The resulting biochemical changes influence the body's homeostatic mechanisms, thus promoting physical and emotional well-being. Stimulation of certain acupuncture points has been shown to affect areas of the brain that are known to reduce sensitivity to pain and stress.
Acupuncture’s strength is in it’s ability to holistically pull together and make sense of the symptoms and underlying contributing issues that have pre-disposed someone to a particular women’s health problem. Then through treatment, re-balance and reset the reproductive system so it that it functions more effectively.
What will happen during the treatment?
During the first consultation a case history is taken, which simply takes the form of a conversation about you and why you are seeking treatment, what your current health is like, how your health has been throughout your life and other areas such as diet, sleep, relationships, work and hobbies.
Through a combination of acupuncture, massage, relaxation techniques, and sometimes counselling, you will be supported to release tension and emotions that may be inhibiting healthy blood flow to the uterus, as well as given dietary recommendations to help replenish your energy. All of which can help to reset your menstrual cycle.
Benefits of acupuncture on the reproductive system
Research has shown that enhanced pelvic blood flow, reduced inflammation and stress reduction that result from acupuncture treatment can, not only improve infertility, but also make an irregular menstrual cycle more regular, reduce period pain and relieve premenstrual symptoms. Link to BAcC
Acupuncture and Pregnancy
Acupuncture is also a safe and natural option during pregnancy. Studies have shown acupuncture to be effective for stress, morning sickness, hip and low back pain and labour induction. It can also be used to help a number of other problems too, as well as gently preparing the body for labour, increasing energy levels and improving sleep.
Acupuncture, fertility and IVF
Chinese doctors have known for centuries that acupuncture improves fertility, but this is now confirmed by recent clinical studies showing that acupuncture treatment improves the success rates for invitro fertilization (IVF) in many women Link to BAcC Beneficial results from combining acupuncture treatment with IVF include increased number of follicles, thickened uterine lining and increased number of embryos, resulting in greater chances of pregnancy.
Acupuncture and peri-menopause/menopause
Peri-menopause can be a challenging transition for many women and often occurs years prior to menopause. It may occur in the 40s, 30s, or earlier and is related to a decrease in estrogen production by the ovaries. Indications of perimenopause include hot flashes, fatigue, increased premenstrual syndrome (PMS), irregular menstrual cycles, insomnia, vaginal dryness, decreased libido, mood swings, anxiety, and breast tenderness. Conventional treatments include hormone replacement therapy and antidepressants. The regulatory, settling and calming effects of acupuncture can be incredibly helpful during this time. One of my patients described feeling like a ‘fuzzy anxious mess’ before her treatment started! But as treatment progressed felt more like her 'old self again’.
How many treatments will I need?
An initial course of acupuncture is usually 6 weeks, thereafter appointments are often less frequent, although it would normally be recommended that treatments be given over a period of three menstrual cycles for menstrual pain, heaviness and irregularities or infertility.
If you would like further information about how acupuncture can be beneficial for anything covered here please contact Nicky Thomas on 07583-291616 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tips for easing menstrual pain
Often we crave carbs or sugary foods before or during the menstrual cycle. But foods that reduce congestion such as oily fish, fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains and nuts and seeds all help to ease menstrual pain. Salmon is high in omega 3 and reduces inflammation.
Exercise is a great way to reduce stress and encourage better blood circulation, which will help to ease those monthly aches and pains.